My HEC Paris MBA Interview: HR to Consulting

I’ve always wanted to visit Paris, and stay there for a couple of weeks. Though most of my family now lives in the US, I always wanted to go back to my French roots. My joy knew no bounds, when I received my HEC Paris interview invite. It wasn’t just about the interview, but it was also about the possibility that I would be studying here for the next year (1 year + 4 months actually), if I succeeded in the interview.

My Background: American (female) with about 5 years of experience working as an HR assistant manager at a mid-level staffing/HR consultancy firm. In my post-MBA goals, I mentioned that I intended to transition into management consultancy and build on my HR background to specialize in human capital management consultancy. Had a GMAT of 700 and a GPA of 3.6 from a non-Ivy school in the US, majoring in liberal arts. Had one promotion during my 5 year stint.

HEC Paris Difficult Interview Questions

My Interview Prep: 
I did quite an intensive preparation trying on the aptitude questions, mock interviews with friends and going through my application several times. I realized that the weak link in my story was the reachability of my stated post-MBA goal. Not sure if many people transitioned from HR to management consultancy in the past.

At my Interview: HEC Paris has a very interesting interview process: its a a double interview process, interviewed by alumnus. So there’s always the safety shield, if you happen to screw up at one of the interviews. In addition you are to prepare a presentation of your choice for the interviewers on a topic that affects you/interests you. Here are some tips on the presentations:

  1. Prepare a topic that is interesting and meaningful. Brownie points if it’s somehow related to your post-MBA goals.
  2. Ensure that you know the topic inside-out. Obviously your interviewers may ask you questions on your presentation.
  3. As much as possible, avoid controversial views or opinions.
  4. Double brownie points, if your topic can make a connection with global trends, and show how these trends have affected your day-to-day work.
  5. The presentation must not be an esoteric management topic in which you display interest/knowledge. It should be something that’s out of your career and/or interests and help to demonstrate your personality and qualities based on your actions.

Now coming to the juicier-bit, the interview questions:

  1. Why are you looking to do an MBA at HEC Paris? In most cases there’s a reverse-trend that we see, where many students from Europe look to do an MBA in the US. Why is it that you a US citizen are looking to do an MBA in Europe?
  2. Transitioning from HR to management consulting requires a great deal of work. How prepared are you to make the transition?
  3. How can HEC Paris, help you achieve your stated post-MBA goal?
  4. What is the greatest regret you have in your professional life? Why?
  5. In the course of your 5-year career in HR, what is the greatest lesson that you learnt?
  6. What other schools have you applied to? Why is HEC your top priority among these schools?
  7. What aspect of living close to Paris do you enjoy the most?
  8. How will you take advantage of living in Paris to develop yourself professionally during the course of your MBA study?
  9. How likely is it that you would consider settling down in Europe/France after your MBA?

Some of these questions were interjected as I was giving my answers, but the interviewers were always very respectful. At one point the interviewer even apologized for interrupting me. Both the interviewers were warm and friendly and suggested that I should seriously consider the program if I were granted admission. The professional yet friendly behavior of the interviewers only helped place HEC Paris on a higher pedestal in my personal opinion.

In the end, I did get admitted to HEC Paris and a couple of top-10 US business schools. I chose HEC Paris for the diversity of experience and to have the privilege of living close to my beloved Paris.

Author: Homer

Homer has an MBA from a top-three US B-School. An Indian engineering graduate from a non-IIT (IITs are Indian equivalents of our tech schools such as Caltech and MIT), Homer is hope for all non-IITians looking to get into Harvard/Wharton/Stan. Homer has a BE degree in mechanical engineering from a college in the south Indian city of Bangalore. Homer says that he was never a great student in his earlier days or at engineering school. What then worked in his favor? Well he founded a mechanical engineering startup after working for a couple of years at a renowned German automobile company. Homer has the longest pre-MBA work experience in our family - 4 yrs at his first job in a no-name mechanical engineering firm + 2 yrs at the German automobile maker + 3 yrs at his startup. Homer sold his startup back to his former employer and is now a top consultant (MBB consulting). Watch out for posts by Homer (to avoid them, of course!).